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Forecasting is one of those… things. There’s a myriad of thoughts running through your mind.
Each thought casting doubt in the accuracy of your glorified guess.
Do I aim low or high? What if I’m wrong?!?
What is competition going to do this year?
There are so many unknowns, how can I predict what’s going to happen when I’m not a wizard?
You have far more information available than you can imagine.
SEM forecasting is a series of educated guesses at its core. It’s a good place to deploy some basic game theory principles.
Forecasting is playing a game with incomplete information, much the same as the Google Ads auction.
We know the outcome that we want (growing conversions), but we don’t have complete information on the economic condition of the auction.
I recommend readers either learn from Annie Duke, former poker player and author of Thinking in Bets. She lays out a series of decisions and quantification methods to make the right choice with incomplete information.
Here’s a link to the book itself, a podcast, and a lecture at Google to review.
While we’re always dealing with incomplete information, we do have options. We can use history to make a series of educated guesses to get forecasting a little right-er.
Before you start you’ll need to segment your traffic into performance pools. That is, break your campaigns into traffic sets where conversion rate and/or CPCs are materially different.
If you’re maxed out on brand but apply the same growth level to… everything, you’ll wind up missing by a mile.
I recommend segmenting your PPC forecast into four main categories:
I’d also recommend diving into devices – mobile vs. not mobile is sufficient.
You can go deeper or stay in the shallow end if you prefer, but these vary enough to warrant their own individual forecasts.
What follows is a walk-through of assumptions I make during forecasting to help guide decision making and get things right.1. CPCs + CPMs Will Increase Year Over Year
“Why am I paying more for the same?” asks the CMO.
Because inflation and Wall Street, that’s why.
If your account has history, try to map CPCs out over a few years to see how they’ve trended to guide your decision.
If it’s a newer account, your best bet is to trust Google’s planning tools and build in a mid-year reforecast.
This year has proven to be a bit more variable than years past, but a 10% increase in CPC/CPM is generally a safe assumption.
If your conversion rate was 3% for non-branded mobile campaigns last year, it will be 3% next year.
If you don’t do any testing, no improvement will happen.
If you do test (which you should), adjust your assumptions. An increase of 25% (e.g. 4% to 5%) isn’t outside the realm of possibility if you do make a significant investment.
If you want testing tips, check my tips for improving PPC landing pages.
If you’re starting from scratch, it can be a bit more challenging to forecast. A safe assumption is that your brand campaigns will correlate with direct traffic, while non-brand will be close to organic.3. The Calendar Will Change, As Should Monthly Forecasts
Black Friday 2023 was November 23, which meant Cyber Monday fell in November.
Black Friday 2023 is November 29, meaning Cyber Monday will fall in December.
Christmas this year is on a Wednesday (vs. Tuesday last year), meaning we’ll likely be able to eke out a few more days of shipping.
The 4th of July is on a Thursday this year, meaning the entire weekend will be heavy on vacations.
Last year it was Wednesday, meaning it acted more like a short break than a summer holiday.
November and July will perform “worse” year over year. December, “better.”
Factor the environment in your forecasts by diving a bit deeper.4. Competitors Will Stay Steady, As Will Auction Dynamics
We all know this isn’t true, but it’s the best we’ve got.
Competitors will come and go. Competitors will change their strategy… a lot.
Barring any significant external factors, you can safely assume the volume of competitive pressure will stay flat.
It’s rare to see a competitive set exponentially grow overnight – after all, there are only so many ad slots.
Competitors will come and go. They will adjust strategy, but the quantity and pressure (likely) will not.
Everybody would love to get more traffic out of their best performing targets.
Unfortunately, there’s not always more traffic to go get!
In turn, your aggregate forecast would be at a $1.09. If you’d like to include the YoY CPC increase, the “rightest” forecast would be at $1.20.
Math outlined below, but also check out Hal Varian’s (very old) video on bidding. The link points to the specific point about incremental costs.
The lone exception to this rule is being limited by budget. If your campaigns are budget constricted, you’ll be able to open forecasts at the same-ish rate.6. Investments in Top of Funnel Will Influence Bottom Funnel Inventory
This segment may be the hardest one to quantify, but is also likely the most important.
There are two questions tied to each marketing effort:
The direct response.
The down-funnel effect.
Think of it this way:
If you launch a big display campaign, you can assume that it will cause some material lift in brand volume and retargeting campaigns.
Exactly how much of an influence is a bit more challenging.
Take a look at previous efforts to see how much of a down-funnel effect it had. After all, yesterday is usually the same as tomorrowBut Wouldn’t It Be Easier to Forecast in Tiers?
Well, yes and no.
Creating layers of assumptions to draft high-medium-low forecasts gives you more of an opportunity to be right. But it diminishes the value of your assumptions as the forecast moves up the chain.
CEOs don’t want three scenarios we think might happen – they want one thing they can take to the board.
Instead, think in bets! Add a gut-based probability to each outcome, weighting the likelihood of each.
Once you start assigning a bit of math to these assumptions, the “right” forecast to a metric becomes crystal clear.
Below is an example of how to think about it for conversion rate. We expect conversion rate will be 3% – it may rise or fall, but we expect it’s twice as likely to soar than it is to fall.Summary
Remember dear readers, a forecast is a guess based on assumptions.
The clearer and more defined your assumptions, the more precise your projection.
As long as you lay out every assumption behind a forecast, there is no way a forecast will ever be wrong!
All screenshots taken by author, June 2023
You're reading 6 Tips You Need To Get Sem Forecasting Right
This story has been updated. It was originally published on October 22, 2023.
Among all the Google products, Google Alerts is perhaps one of the least known, but it’s definitely one of the most powerful. It taps into Google’s endless crawling of the web—done to power its search engine—but flags terms as they’re indexed, not when you get around to looking for them. Think of it as Google results coming to you.
Instead of running a search every day to see if your favorite band is touring, for instance, or to see if any new rumors have been reported about the next iPhone, you can sit back while those stories get straight into your inbox.How to set up a Google Alert
Setting up Google Alerts is easy and straightforward. From your computer or mobile device, head to the Google Alerts page and sign in with your Google account if you haven’t already.
Type the search phrase or words you want to keep tabs on into the Create an alert about… box at the top of the screen. Note that you can use the standard search operators here, the same you would use when searching on Google—quotation marks around a phrase will match that exact phrase; a plus symbol in front makes sure your search will always include that word, and a minus symbol in front of a word tells Google to return matches that don’t include it. So, entering “dolphins -Miami” would get you results about the aquatic mammal but not the football team, for example.
[Related: 4 RSS apps to stay in the know]
When you’re happy, select Create Alert, and the results will start arriving in your inbox as frequently as you want (as they’re found, once a day, or once a week). Once you create your alerts, you can go to the Google Alerts page to modify or remove it.
Some trial and error might be required to find the right balance between getting overwhelmed with results and not getting any at all, but you should quickly get a feel for how specific you need to make your search terms and how often you need to receive your various Google Alerts.
Searching on Google is easy, but you know what’s easier? Having Google do the searching for you. David Nield1. Important news topics
Google Alerts are ideal for keeping in touch with news stories, especially on topics that don’t often make the headlines. Maybe you’re interested in archaeological digs in one part of the world, or a specific type of art, or a certain fashion trend—Google Alerts can bring articles on these topics straight to you.2. Your favorite bands, shows, and authors
With so much music to listen to these days, it can be all too easy to miss a new album or a new tour from that band you were really into a couple of years back—but Google Alerts can keep you in the loop whenever something new happens.
But this extends beyond musical artists—you can check for new seasons of your favorite show on Netflix or new books from your favorite authors, for example. Whatever type of cultural content you’re interested in, Google Alerts can serve it up.3. Watch out for plagiarism
If you or the company you work for are in the writing business, Google Alerts is a fantastic way to scan the web for plagiarism. You can easily make sure no one else is passing off your work as their own, borrowing your regular turns of phrase, or trying to impersonate you—create alerts using your name, the titles of your articles, or some text from inside them to try to catch plagiarism (or discover who is quoting your content).4. Check for company mentions
This one is work-related, but it’s still interesting—you can use Google Alerts to monitor what other people are saying about your company on the web, good or bad. Google Alerts is also useful for keeping up with industry news, and if your employer is a big name in your chosen industry, you should get plenty of news results too.
If you don’t want to get notifications about online mentions of your company, you can key in your name instead (this is one of the alerts recommended by Google itself). It might seem a somewhat egotistical move, but at least you’ll know if other people are talking about you (and maybe you’ll come across some other people with your name, too).5. Your personal details
Wait, you did what? Oh, no… that’s just someone else with your exact same name. Omar Medina Films / Pixabay
Has your postal address or email address leaked out on the web? A simple Google Alert can tell you. Remember no one else can see these alerts, so your privacy is not at risk here. If you do find your email address is out there for everyone to see, you might have been the victim of a hack, or have been listed in an online directory—whatever the context, Google Alerts can help you take action quickly.6. Keep tabs on people
Who are you interested in? Whether it’s your long-lost brother, a particular politician, a celebrity, or a sports star, Google Alerts will deliver news on this person right to your inbox. For the most popular searches you might have to reduce the frequency of your notifications and stick to the Only the best results option, but this also works well for searches that don’t return many results at all—if someone suddenly comes back into the public eye, you’ll know about it first.7. Local news
We’ll finish as we started, with news—the area where Google Alerts can perhaps be the most useful. In some parts of the world, finding news about your hometown isn’t always easy, but a quick Google Alert can help—if something significant happens in your area, you’ll know about it. If you live somewhere that does get plenty of news coverage, you might want to be more specific with your keywords (looking for stories on transport or crime, for example).
People who buy products marketed to them via email spend a whopping 138% more than people outside the email marketing campaign.
With figures like that, email is a channel your business can’t afford to ignore.
So why is email marketing so valuable? It’s because your subscribers want to hear from you. They’ve signed on the dotted line, metaphorically speaking. They’re a warm lead, ready and primed to buy what you’re selling. Most people check their inbox multiple times a day (if you’re anything like me, ‘multiple’ doesn’t even do it justice) and they trust you enough to let you in.
Don’t break that trust, and you could be making some serious money from email marketing.
Here are six tips to make sure your email marketing is on the money.1. A Strong Subject Line is Everything
The cardinal rule of all marketing: if they don’t see it, they can’t buy it. You could compose the best email in the whole world, but if your subject line doesn’t get their attention you’re heading straight to spam. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.
I could write a whole piece about optimizing your subject lines, and there’s no shortage of research on the subject, but I’ll summarize:
Keep it Short: 6-10 word subject lines have the highest open rate, so don’t ramble.
Choose your words carefully: If it sounds like sales rhetoric, bin it.
Personalise: Personalized subject lines get up to 41.8% more opens so use merge tags to add personal touches.
Be Benefit Orientated: A pro tip from copywriters everywhere: focus on the benefits. Why should your prospect open your email? What do they stand to gain?
Don’t SHOUT: Caps can be used to some effect very occasionally, but on the whole stick to sentence case or Title Case. No one likes being shouted at, especially not from the comfort of their own inbox.
The subject line is often a critical component to increasing open rates, but if you want to really hone in on boosting your opens, then this post on seven valuable email marketing strategies will benefit you.2. Work on Your CTA
A marketing email without a call-to-action is just an email. If you don’t tell your prospects what action you’d like them to take, they probably won’t take any.
Here’s a great example from Vistaprint:3. Leverage Transactional Emails
If you’re not using transactional emails as an upsell and cross-sell opportunity, you’re missing a trick.
Transactional emails are the email you get to confirm you’ve done something, triggered by an action you’ve taken such as inputting your address, purchasing something or setting up an account. Transactional emails have a 4 to 8 times higher open rate than other emails, so they’re a valuable opportunity you shouldn’t be wasting.
Here’s an example from Harvard Business Review after I signed up recently:
They’re ticking all the boxes with this message. Notice how they immediately confirm my registration, as well as reminding me why I registered in the first place – re-emphasising the benefits to make me feel good about signing up.
Then they capitalize on these emotions by offering me a time-sensitive saving of 20% if I go a step further and subscribe.
Email marketing best practice from HBR – they’re doing everything right.4. Personalization is Key
Personalization is when you send targeted, specific content tailored to your subscribers. For example, you might personalize based on purchase history, subscription preferences, location, or interests. It makes people feel like you’re talking to them personally, which makes your emails harder to ignore.
Personalized emails can incentivize subscribers to buy, upsell to current customers, and reactivate dormant subscribers.
Back in the day, personalized email meant sending emails one-by-one, but that isn’t the case. Today, email marketing software can segment your email lists and automate most of your campaigns, all with minimal effort.
Everything comes down to how much data you can collect about subscribers, and how well you segment your lists.
That’s how transactional emails work too – consumer behavior triggers an email, or a series of emails, specifically designed to appeal to and convert customers at that stage in the funnel.5. Think Mobile
Up to 70% of emails are read on mobile. If your emails aren’t responsive, you’re losing out on a lot of potential custom.
Focus on keeping your emails short and sweet, as well as checking to ensure your images load. There’s nothing worse than working hard to create a compelling, converting email only to discover after you’ve sent it that it looks horrendous on mobile.
The things to look for are:
Length: Long text and mobiles don’t go well together. It’s like Mark Twain says – “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one”. Writing shorter is more difficult – it demands clarity, precision, and flair. Go back to basics and highlight the core benefit of your email, and work your copy around that.
Images: Images are the most obvious way an email goes wrong on mobile. Not loading, not displaying properly, displaying HUGE and sending the text all over the place. Sort it out.
Most email platforms will show you exactly how your email will look on mobile, but if not, you could simply try sending it to yourself and see how it looks!6. Split Test EVERYTHING
As with everything marketing, different things work better for different people, different audiences and different products. These tips are all generally accepted email marketing wisdom, but testing is the best way to refine your own unique campaign.
Split testing, if you’re not familiar with it, sounds more complicated than it actually is. It simply means splitting off a small proportion of your audience and sending different versions of your campaign out to different segments. You can test how well each version does, and then use the highest performing campaign across your whole audience.
Only change one variable at a time to isolate the specific cause of the high-performance (or low performance – you can use split-testing to troubleshoot too).
You can test any element of your email – from CTA to subject line, images to headline, offers to layouts, and through a process of elimination you’ll work out what the perfect email composition is.
When it comes to e-commerce businesses, there are certain types of analytics that you need to keep a close eye on
Whatever type of business you have, as long as you have an online presence, you need to carefully track your analytics. When it comes to e-commerce businesses, there are certain types of analytics that you need to keep a close eye on. This will help you understand what marketing strategies are actually working, what makes people want to buy from you, as well as how to improve your sales, acquire more customers and cut down on customer acquisition costs.
But while there are numerous similarities between e-commerce analytics and the analytics used by other types of businesses, e-commerce companies have their own particularities and needs – in other words, you need to monitor more metrics in order to grow your online business.
In this blog post, I’m going to share some of my top tips and tricks to help you get more out of your e-commerce analytics.
Download our Premium Resource – Website performance reporting template
Use this template to help guide and structure your approach to reporting on your inbound marketing performance. Identify and report on areas of weakness, performance, and opportunities by getting the most out of Google Analytics.
Access the Website performance reporting templateSet up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics
Google Analytics offers a lot of valuable information by default, but if you want to make the most of it as an online business, you need to set up e-commerce tracking. Essentially, this means you need to add a snippet of code to your website and this will be able to track:
How many sales you’ve made
The purchase amounts
Transactions (revenue, tax, shipping, quantity)
Time to purchase (days and sessions to transaction)
Which products sell the most? This will tell you what types of products your audience prefers and which products you should market to reach a wider audience and improve your sales.
Which products aren’t selling at all and why is that? Are you not marketing them enough? Are they not right for your audience? Are these products not of a high enough quality?
How long does it take your customers to buy from you, in time/session numbers? Should you change the design of your website to make it easier for your visitors to get to your product pages?
This type of data can help you make a lot of good decisions for your e-commerce business. Once you’ve set up e-commerce tracking, it’s not just a case of taking note of your results. Rather, take the time to understand your results and find out what they’re telling you about your audience, your website, your marketing efforts and so on.Create conversion goals in Google Analytics
Another handy tool offered by Google Analytics is the ability to create conversion goals. What this means is that you can find out how many of your website visitors complete specific actions. These actions can be something like buying a product from you or signing up for your newsletter, among many others.
You can use several useful templates to set up your goal, but be aware that you can only set up to 20 different goals, so take the time to prioritize the goals that are most important to you.
There are several ways that you can leverage this feature as an e-commerce business:
Measure all the times someone bought something from you/made a payment.
Measure appointment scheduling, if relevant.
If you have any type of newsletter sign-up form (for example, for updates on new products, for keeping up with your blog, etc.), measure all the times someone signed up.
Find out how many times visitors have checked out your contact page, to see directions to your bricks and mortar stores – if relevant – or find out your phone number, email, or try to chat with you.
See how many visitors requested a price or time estimate (if relevant) or checked your inventory or schedule.
You can also count as conversions “media plays”, meaning any time a visitor played a certain interactive media, such as a video, slideshow or a product demo.
You can also build your very own custom goals from scratch, in case the templates aren’t enough.Understanding your customer acquisition metrics
When you’re in e-commerce, you can’t rely solely on sales to measure your success and keep growing. Of course, all of those e-commerce metrics we talked about earlier are extremely important, but another very important aspect is custom acquisition.
Which platforms are helping you generate more customers for your business?
What are your best traffic sources, not just in terms in quantity, but in terms of quality?
There are a lot of questions that you can answer if you know where to look.
Acquisition data: the acquisition reports in Google Analytics can show you where your traffic is coming from, as well as what they’re doing on your website (how much time they’re spending on your website, the bounce rate, whether they’re new/repeat users and if you’ve set up conversions, you’ll also be able to see how many conversions each channel generated).
Behaviour data: which pages and landing pages does your audience prefer? What gets them to your website? Which page lead to their exit? All of this information helps you understand what kind of content attracts traffic so that you can promote the right pages and create more of the same content.
Ideally, you don’t just want to make more sales, but also get more people on your website so that you can get more new buyers. That’s why you need to keep a close eye on your marketing and customer acquisition metrics so that you can improve your strategies, focus on the tactics and channels that work and ultimately improve your Customer Acquisition Costs.Conclusion
There is so much to learn from your web analytics; you just need to know where to look and how to interpret your results. Analytics are essential to a growing business and should be a top priority for any e-commerce business: take the time regularly to monitor your results, learn from them and improve your website, your content, your marketing strategies and even your products in order to sell more.
One of the most resource-hungry features of Windows 7 is search indexing, which creates a dictionary for your files, allowing you to perform faster searches. The problem is that, while it’s creating that dictionary, it consumes your hard drive’s read/write speeds significantly, making it difficult to navigate through applications while indexing is taking place. That’s why Microsoft included an option to turn this off.2. Disable Aero
If your computer gets kind of clunky while playing a movie or has difficulty emulating the graphics when you minimize or open a window, it’s probably time to sacrifice the pretty effects that Windows 7 Aero brings with it and just live with simple bland colors. The interface will function similarly to how Windows 7 Starter does. Removing Aero will give your computer a little more breathing room, especially if the display adapter uses some of the PC’s physical memory to perform.3. Use MSConfig to Your Advantage!
Although we’ve discussed this before, it never hurts to reiterate that MSConfig is an important tool to help you improve your boot time. There are several services and startup applications that take up tons of resources while Windows boots. For those of you who have to bear a sluggish boot process, this is the tool to use. Here are some services you should consider disabling:
Diagnostic Policy Service
Distributed Link Tracking Client
Portable Device Enumerator Service
TCP/IP NetBIOS Service
Windows Media Center Service Launcher4. Disable Visual Effects
For many people, Windows works just fine without all the fancy visual hoopla that comes attached to it. Some would even consider it preferable! Visual effects are the kinds of things that make your computer hang when you minimize, maximize, open, and close a window. Windows 7 introduces a whole series of new visual effects that also can make a computer hang when hovering the cursor over an open window’s icon. If you don’t want these things to use up the visual resources on your computer, you can easily disable them.
Disabling the majority of these items will still keep most of the capabilities in Windows without requiring that you sacrifice a certain amount of RAM as a tribute. As a downside, you’ll have a blander look on your computer which might take some getting used to.5. Use ReadyBoost
Of all the features on Windows 7, ReadyBoost seems to be one that most people are oblivious about. The problem is that it’s also one of the most important features, allowing you to significantly boost your system memory using a USB flash drive. If you have a ReadyBoost-compatible USB drive, you can configure your operating system to use it as a RAM module, effectively increasing the amount of physical memory you have by the amount of memory available on the drive.
Depending on the speed of the drive, and the speed of your USB port, you’ll be able to significantly increase the speed at which Windows interacts because of the sudden spike in the amount of memory available to it. You can run more programs at the same time. This also frees up the hard disk’s virtual memory a bit, since it doesn’t have to store so much data.6. Get Rid of Features You Don’t Use Questions?
Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.
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A research project by Google discovered a hidden way that consumer needs influenced search behavior. The researchers assert that these behaviors drive intent. Google concludes that marketers can drive more growth by tapping into these hidden need states.
This research was published in 2023, but somehow it did not get the attention it deserves. This article corrects that oversight.Six Need States
Google’s research uncovered six need states. These need states are unlike anything else related to user intent.
Usually search intent is described as transactional, informational, navigational and so on. This is completely different.
These are underlying need states that drive search behavior.Google’s six need states are:
This is how Google describes what these need states are about:
“…it’s a qualitative and quantitative segmentation approach that uncovers the functional, social, and emotional drivers of consumer behavior within a given market.
At its core, it provides a framework for understanding why people make the decisions that they do, which, in turn, can reveal opportunities for brands and companies to (better) satisfy those underlying needs.”
Google classifies the six need states into three categories:
Google asserts that decision making can be irrational and driven by how people feel.
Google’s research article provides the example of a fictional shampoo brand that has “reassuring” messages that makes a customer feel comfortable and safe. The brand does this with wording that communicates “how the product works“and other examples. I suppose messaging like “not tested on animals” would be appropriate for an organic type shampoo.
An example of the “Impress Me” need state would be celebrity endorsement and other glamorous types of messaging.
According to Google these need states have a deep effect on how people search:
“And those needs have a profound impact on search. How long the query is. How many times a person hits the back button. How many tabs a person has open. Which device they’re using. The number of search iterations. Whether a person prefers text, image, or video results. How many different things they type into the search bar.”
According to Google, the Impress Me state is related to luxury, status and a sense of importance. So high ticket items like expensive autos, premium products and travel experiences. So when someone searches for these kinds of products, they are looking to be impressed.
These Impress Me need state is typified by searches that can be complex like, “What car should you drive if you make $150,000?”
The Reassure Me state comes from a position of anxiety. According to Google the searches are less complex. Because this need state demands reassurance that they are making the right decision, things like videos tend to provide that reassurance.Underlying Questions and Needs
I recently published an article about underlying questions that are hidden within a search query. When someone searches with a vague phrase like, “Carrots Benefits ” what they are really asking is, “Are carrots good for you?”
If you want to rank for Carrots Benefits, you very likely will need to write an answer for the phrase, “Are carrots good for you.” The evidence is in Google’s search results for both queries because the top two results are exactly the same, even the featured snippet is the same.
What I described was the underlying question.
What Google’s research describes is the underlying emotional need state.
This is how Google explains why it is important to marketers to understand the consumer’s need state that underlies a search query:
“Marketers tend to think of search as purely transactional, something near the bottom of the traditional marketing funnel.
But with the marketing funnel changing, so should marketers’ approach to search. Emotion fuels marketers’ thinking when it comes to creative execution in other media.
It should also inform their thinking when it comes to search.
How your brand responds to these needs in search can shape the journey.”
I think that this concept is worth considering. Check out the research article and see if any insights pop up as to how your content can better serve your site visitors because of the emotional need state that visitor may be in.
Read: Search Results Analysis: The Latent Question
Read: How Consumer Needs Shape Search Behavior and Drive Intent
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